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July 7, 2005

Endowed chair honors Nordenberg

Thanking Pitt’s Board of Trustees and others for keeping a $2.4 million secret, board chair Ralph J. Cappy surprised Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg by announcing an endowed University chair in Nordenberg’s name.

At the June 24 trustees meeting, Cappy said that trustees, board members of the Pitt Alumni Association and other Pitt alumni and friends have made a combined gift of $2.4 million to establish the endowed Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair to honor Nordenberg’s 10 years of leadership as chancellor of the University.

The endowed chair indicates the extraordinary esteem in which the trustees and other members of the Pitt community hold Nordenberg, Cappy said in making the announcement.

“I think you’ll all agree that the University of Pittsburgh is a far different and far better place than it was 10 years ago,” Cappy told the trustees. “Our leadership team in my view is beyond compare. But the commitment of all these people does not build spontaneously. It takes a leader who is tireless in his efforts to reach out and help you understand where we need to go and how we should go about accomplishing the tasks at hand.”

Such a leader must listen to concerns but be decisive, Cappy said. “It takes a leader who can relate to the broad range of constituencies and assure that they leave every conversation knowing that their individual contribution to our progress does in fact make a difference. Mark Nordenberg is that leader,” the board chair said.

“In his heart, Mark is first and foremost an academic, a teacher,” Cappy said. “Thus, the best way to recognize Mark today, and to ensure that his name will live in perpetuity in this University is to create what we have in fact created, the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair.”

Following the announcement, a stunned Nordenberg told the trustees: “I love the University of Pittsburgh. It’s been my professional home for most of my adult life. I was proud to be part of Pitt the day I walked onto campus as a visiting assistant professor” in 1977, he said.

“You’ve paid me such a great honor by selecting me as interim chancellor and then as chancellor. You’ve been great colleagues and friends, by helping me to achieve whatever levels of success the last 10 years have brought,” Nordenberg continued.

“This is a total surprise. It’s completely unnecessary. I’m the one who owes you, and not the other way around. I’m deeply grateful. I’ll always remember this moment.”

The Nordenberg chair, the 63rd endowed faculty position to be funded during Pitt’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, is the first of its kind at the University in that it can be used to endow a chair in any of Pitt’s 16 schools and colleges.

The endowed chair will, according to Cappy, “reward in perpetuity distinguished individual faculty members for the top-flight research, scholarship and teaching we all prize at Pitt.”

As with all endowed chairs at Pitt, the Nordenberg chair appointment will be made by the incumbent chancellor upon the recommendation of either the provost or the senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences. It will be held by each honoree for the length of that faculty member’s active Pitt academic career.

“Endowed chairs are critical to a university’s ability to attract and retain truly exceptional faculty,” said Pitt Provost James V. Maher. “The establishment of the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair is a fitting testament to Chancellor Nordenberg’s long-standing commitment — as a professor, as an academic administrator and as a chancellor — to respect for faculty excellence.”

Cappy announced that the Nordenberg chair fund will have a public phase of 120 days so that those unaware of the chair’s existence prior to the trustees meeting would have an opportunity to donate to it.

Donors interested in supporting the new endowed chair fund at any level should call the Pitt Office of Institutional Advancement at 1-800/817-8943 or 412/624-5814 or make gifts on line at

—Peter Hart

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